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States with Filial Responsibility Laws Ought to Scare You

By JLP | May 24, 2012

My friend, Russ (follow Ross on Twitter), posted a link to this article on Twitter. This is some scary stuff.

John Pittas’ mother entered a nursing home for rehabilitation following a car crash. After she left the nursing home, she moved out of the country. His mother’s $93,000 bill at the home was left unpaid. The mom had applied for Medicaid, which would normally pay the bill if she couldn’t.

The mom’s Medicaid application did not get approved in enough time to satisfy the nursing home, and it sued her son for the bill. The state of Pennsylvania, like 29 others in our country, has something called a “filial responsibility law”. Those laws require that spouses, children and even parents of needy adults support the indigent. These laws were rarely ever enforced. The nursing home decided to enforce it rather than have Medicaid do what it was designed to do.

The 29 states that have “filial responsibility” laws are (courtesy of one of the commenters on the article):

Alaska, Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and West Virginia.

This is particularly concerning when you think about how many Baby Boomers are reaching retirement with nothing saved. The article suggests looking into getting a long term care insurance policy for parents. I suppose that makes a nice Christmas present.

Something tells me that we’re going to be hearing lots more about this in the future.

Topics: Retirement Planning | 16 Comments »


16 Responses to “States with Filial Responsibility Laws Ought to Scare You”

  1. BG Says:
    May 24th, 2012 at 11:05 am

    So we pay for their pensions (via higher prices and taxes on everything), we pay for their SS (via payroll taxes), we pay for their Medicare/Medicaid (more taxes), and now we will be direct billed for their care too.

    Lovely.

  2. JLP Says:
    May 24th, 2012 at 11:11 am

    BG,

    I don’t know the specifics of this case but there are lots of instances where people do shady things in order to get out of paying for care by qualifying for medicaid. That said, I do not understand how the caregiver could single out one person to receive the bill. That doesn’t seem right to me.

    The article suggests long term care but long term care insurance can be pricey. And, companies are leaving that business. Not only that, you can have a policy for years and face significant premium increases if the insurance company deems them necessary and gets approval from the state.

  3. Stacey Says:
    May 24th, 2012 at 11:19 am

    Jack should be very pleased with this development :)

    Nonetheless, BG is correct about policies being expensive. My parent have a policy and have been paying around $250/mo for (almost) the last 10 years…It certainly has not been in their budget to pay, but they’ve always tried to be responsible people. Apparently, per my mom, once they hit the magic 10-year mark of payments AND if one of them dies after this, the premiums will no longer have to be paid by the surviving spouse. I told her she had better re-check that information as lots of changes have been make in the last few years. As a company, that’s one I’ d boot to the curb. Anyway I think their coverage is for a 2-year period, which is better than nothing.

    Good thing all our parents live in IL!

  4. Jack Says:
    May 24th, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    BG, I’m not sure what your complaint is.

    Stacey, this is hardly a development — these laws have been on the books for a long time.

    I really don’t see what the problem is. Are you unwilling to pay for your parents’ medical bills?

  5. BG Says:
    May 24th, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    My complaint is that the nursing home entered into an agreement with a person, and that person dodged the bill after services were rendered. There should be no law that allows that nursing home to bill (and win a suit against) one of the kids.

    The nursing home should have sued the person that they provided their services to. If that person is deceased, they should sue (and be recouped from) that person’s estate. If there is no estate, then tough titty for the nursing home — they shouldn’t have provided services to a person who couldn’t pay. This isn’t the same as an ER visit where minutes decide whether someone lives/dies.

    In this case, the nursing home didn’t even go after the lady’s husband (which would’ve been logical), they picked (one of) the kids, and won!!

    Oh, and HOW does one rack up a $93k bill for a temporary stay at a nursing home? If any lawyer knows if it is possible to ‘divorce’ a parent, please fill us in.

  6. Jack Says:
    May 24th, 2012 at 5:27 pm

    > My complaint is that the nursing home entered
    > into an agreement with a person, and that person
    > dodged the bill after services were rendered.

    The nursing home went into the agreement with knowledge of the law. That Pittas and his mother were ignorant of the law is not the nursing home’s fault.

    What confused me was the generality of your preface, “we pay for their pensions (via higher prices and taxes on everything), we pay for their SS (via payroll taxes), we pay for their Medicare/Medicaid (more taxes)”, followed by the specificity of the complaint: “and now we will be direct billed for their care too.”

  7. BG Says:
    May 24th, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    “That Pittas and his mother were ignorant of the law is not the nursing home’s fault.”

    What makes you think Pittas was involved in the deal at all? Did he sign something saying he would pay the bill if his mother couldn’t? If so, then he is responsible, if not: the nursing home learns a lesson to not provide services without payment up front.

    I would BET that if Pittas had known he would be financially responsible for his mother’s decisions, he would have let (made) her “recover” in a spare bedroom / couch in his house if he didn’t value their services at the $93k price point.

    I am not against making kids responsible for their ageing parent’s well-being. What I am against is making kids pay some third party (nursing home) for that care.

    Pick one or the other: Filial Laws, OR, SS/Medicare/Medicaid.

    Having both on the books is robbery.

  8. Miguel Says:
    May 24th, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Clearly, there is a lot of information missing from the article – typical these days as the purpose of so many MSM articles is simply to get us worked up, not to truly inform us.

    Having had some experience admitting a parent to a nursing home, I can vouch for the fact that there is a ton of paperwork, and quite often family members are required to co-sign or sign on behalf of parents, especially where the nursing home deems the parent to not be altogether capable of understanding what is going on or is physically disabled and not able to represent themselves.

    Also, states these days are vigilant in figuring out if any fraudulent transfers have occurred between parent and children – perhaps nursing home figured the chances of seeking redress from Medicaid were slim to none. The fact that the mom “left the country” raises a yellow flag in my mind. Who knows.

    Being of legal experience (though not a lawyer), I understood pretty well what I was signing, objectionable though it was. After my parent passed away, the nursing home came after me for a $30 unpaid bill – and I mean really came after me. Must have cost them more to chase me down than write it off. I paid it. They took pretty good care of my parent. I was grateful.

  9. JLP Says:
    May 24th, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    Miguel wrote:

    “The fact that the mom “left the country” raises a yellow flag in my mind. Who knows.”

    I thought the same thing when I read the article. Who leaves a country and skips out on a $93,000 bill? I know they applied for Medicaid but it still seems suspicious.

    “Clearly, there is a lot of information missing from the article – typical these days as the purpose of so many MSM articles is simply to get us worked up, not to truly inform us.”

    Yeah, and I play into their hands too often. Sorry about that.

  10. Sam Says:
    May 24th, 2012 at 9:46 pm

    Interesting article. I had never heard of filial responsibility laws before.

  11. Russ Thornton Says:
    May 25th, 2012 at 6:09 am

    Thanks for the mention. I’m going to post something about this next week as well.

    The scariest part of this article is the “legislation of morality.”

    Have a great Memorial Day weekend.

  12. BG Says:
    May 25th, 2012 at 7:05 am

    Miguel) The appeals court decision is online for you to read. Basically the court says the mom was indigent, so the son has to pay. Why Medicare/Medicaid denied her application is a logical contradiction to that courts decision, so its a big mess.

    The article is spot on accurate.

    What is missing is that if Medicare comes through and pays, then Pittas will be refunded. One would think that armed with the court decision, he can force Medicare to push the moms application through.

  13. Miguel Says:
    May 25th, 2012 at 7:15 am

    JLP – Critic of MSM was not directed at you. It’s a good topic to raise and even if the article itself was a bit alarmist, there are lots of reasons folks should be worried about how these kinds of things can play out. I have friends and acquaintances who have had big run-ins with the Medicaid laws relating to responsibility for parent nursing home bills. Easy to blame people for not understanding the laws, but the laws are extremely complicated, and often arbitrarily applied.

    One of the 1st things I did when my parent became ill, was get an attorney specializing in eldercare (well… actually 2nd thing after making sure we were getting the best medical attention). This episode in my life was hands down one of the hardest, most emotionally wrenching things I have ever experienced. If your parent has not made painstakingly well-considered arrangements for this potential situation, then you are going to be fighting a war on several fronts: the fin’l issues, the medical issues, the emotional issues, the legal issues, dealing with insurance, hospitals, nursing homes, and other family members with varied agendas…. gives me hives just thinking about it.

  14. Miguel Says:
    May 25th, 2012 at 7:23 am

    BG – thanks – I’ll look that up.

    But LOL, “armed with the court decision, he can force Medicare to push the moms application through.” There is no “forcing” health insurance (govt or otherwise) to do anything in a reasonable amount of time.

    I must admit though, that for the most part, my experiences, though emotionally painful and confusing in complexity, were positive in terms of the responsiveness of the caregivers and the institutions involved.

  15. Miguel Says:
    May 25th, 2012 at 7:41 am

    BG – found it. All I can say is….. WOW! Sounds like the court was completely stacked against this guy… finding him to not be a “credible witness” and placing the burden of proof on the son to show that he does not have the means to support his mother. Reading between the lines, I think the judge thought something fishy was going on, but had no proof, so completely twisted the law to fit the desired outcome. I also suspect an element of xenophbia as the family is 1st generation Greek, and the son is self-employed (i.e. employed in a way that makes it easy to hide money).

  16. Jack Says:
    May 25th, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    He was found not to be a “credible witness” because he spoke of “other bills” which he could not substantiate.

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